Is the thief of John 10:10 Talking About Satan?
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10.
Some believe that “the thief” in the above passage is talking about the hypocritical Jewish leadership of the day rather than Satan. These interpreters believe that it is wrong to use this passage as a proof text about Satan’s nature, even though they acknowledge that Satan, according to other Scripture, DOES, in fact, steal, kill and destroy. They claim that the CONTEXT of Jesus’ statement refers to wicked men and not to the wicked devil.
Here is my response.
The context is talking about BOTH the wicked human shepherds AND Satan as the chief Shepherd of evil. Both are thieving wolves in disguise. The full context of this passage needs to be put in perspective. Jesus, in John chapters 8-10, is ministering in or near the Temple, the hub of Jewish religious leadership. In these chapters, Jesus is repeatedly responding to and rebuking the deceitful and destructive attacks of evil made against Him by the Scribes, Pharisees, and other religious leaders. John 8:3, 13, 48, 52, 59; 9:13, 33-34, 40; 10:24, 31, 33, 39.
In between the Pharisees’ various attacks and accusations in these three chapters, Jesus does some amazing things in and around the Temple. 1) Jesus saves the woman caught in adultery from being killed at the direction of the Jewish leadership. 2) Jesus heals the man blind from birth, a man whom the Jewish leadership then casts out of the Temple in anger because the healed man gave divine credit to Christ. 3) Jesus tells the Temple Jews that He preexisted Abraham as the great “I AM.” 4) Jesus informs the Jewish leaders that He and the Father are one. 5) Finally, Jesus portrays Himself as “the true shepherd” and “door of salvation” for all men. These chapters may well be the most important three sequential chapters in the Bible.
But, there is one OTHER crucial truth in these chapters, one that answers the question as to whom “the thief” in John 10:10 is clearly referring. Jesus informs the Temple Jews of the following: ” Ye are OF your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44.
Read the above passage carefully, for it is crucial that we understand the full significance of what Jesus is saying. Satan is the father of all lies, the father of all lusts, the father of all murder, and the father of all sin. All fallen men are “functional” sons of the devil until they find the true Shepherd’s voice. All men were created to be sons of God, but like the prodigal son, all have strayed and been snared by the cosmic enemy known as the devil. 1 John 3:8 is in full accord here: “He that committeth sin is OF the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8.
Do you see? When John 10:1-13 refers to “a stranger,” “the voice of strangers,” “thieves and robbers,” “the thief,” and “the wolf,” Jesus is referring to a system of devilish dynamics which ALL stem, originate, flow FROM and are empowered BY Satan. Jesus elsewhere in John calls Satan the prince/ruler of this fallen world. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11. The apostle John tells us that “the whole world is in the power of the evil one (RSV).” Jesus is defining the nature of Satan in these three chapters as it continues to attack His ministry in and around the Temple.
Furthermore, just because a plural term is occasionally used in this passage, such as “shepherdS” or “robberS,” this does not mean the terms aren’t referring to the singular person of Satan. Mark 4:4 metaphorically refers to Satan in the plural, as “the fowlS of the air,” who immediately comes and devours up the seed of God sown on the wayside heart. Jesus explicitly taught that these “birdS” (plural) represented Satan (singular) in Mark 4:15. This plural metaphor is clearly referring to a singular entity.
So, does “the thief “John 10:10 also refer to Pharisees? Sure it can. But, “the thief’s” primary application is to the true father of all Pharisaical living and thinking — Satan. Pharisees are themselves mere pawns, earthly false shepherds who serve a cosmic false shepherd named Satan. The “context” of “the thief” refers primarily to Satan. The Holy Ghost “subtext” also resonates that Satan is the topical target here. We are more than justified in using this passage as one of the defining statements by Jesus as to the nature, will, and purposes of Satan.